Accumulation of heavy metals in stormwater bioretention media: A field study of temporal and spatial variation

Mohammed Al-Ameri, Belinda Hatt, Sebastien Le Coustumer, Tim Fletcher, Emily Payne, Ana Deletic

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Short term studies have found that stormwater biofiltration systems, also known as bioretention systems or raingardens, are very effective in reducing heavy metal concentrations. However, their long-term treatment performance, as well as the spatial and temporal accumulation of metals within these systems remain uncertain. This paper reports on a large scale field study that assessed the changes over time of cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn) levels in biofilters varying in age, design, and catchment characteristics. The survey incorporated 29 biofilters in 2006/7 and 49 biofilters, in 2014/15, located in three major Australian cities (Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney). Noting that these results are influenced by having just one industrial site with 25 filters measured at that site Catchment characteristics were significantly correlated with metal accumulation rates. Biofilters in catchments with current or past industrial activities had elevated heavy metal concentrations in the filter media. Zinc concentrations in the surface 0–100 mm exceed both soil quality and ecological guidelines. In contrast, heavy metal concentrations in residential catchments are unlikely to (ever) reach levels that exceed soil quality guidelines for human health, although zinc concentrations approach ecological guideline criteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-731
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Heavy metals
  • Media
  • Plants
  • Rain gardens
  • Stormwater biofilters
  • Stormwater bioretention

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